Limitation period for recovery of land by prisoners
About twenty years ago, I came to Dar es Salaam to visit my brother. Near his residence, there was a bar where we used to go for recreation. One weekend a fight ensued between two gentlemen who were boozing with their girlfriends. Acting in good faith, I intervened to persuade them to stop fighting. In the process, one of them pulled out his pistol and shot the other who died instantly. Police came and picked the shooter, the girlfriend and me. The matter went to court and in 2002 the shooter and I were sentenced for murder. My brother assisted me to lodge an appeal at the Court of Appeal which in 2015 set aside the sentence and released me unconditionally. After the release, I went home to find that my neighbor had trespassed and built a house in my land since the year 2002. In 2019 I instituted a suit against my neighbor for recovery of my land but the defendant has raised an objection to my suit that it has been filed out of time because it has been over 12 years since the defendant encroached the land. Is this objection meritorious?
The defendant has misconceived the position of the Law of Limitation which governs time limitation for instituting suits for recovery of land. Generally, a suit for recovery of land should be instituted not later than 12 years from the time when the dispute arose. Besides that general rule, the law gives clemency for exclusion of certain periods. In your case, you could not sue your neighbor while in jail thus the 12 years rule started to accrue in the year 2015 when you were released from jail. Hence in your case, the period from 2002, when your neighbor trespassed into your land, to 2015 when you were released from jail, is excluded in computing the twelve years in which you could institute the suit. In 2019 when you instituted the suit only 4 years had lapsed from the time when you were released from jail, thus the suit was instituted within the time limitation prescribed by the Law of Limitation Act, given the misfortunes you encountered.